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Ralph Strangis Hits the Boards

by Stephen Becker 16 Aug 2011 7:48 AM

A voice familiar to North Texas hockey fans can soon be heard on stage in Coppell before the Stars new season begins.


A voice familiar to North Texas hockey fans can soon be heard on stage in Coppell before the Stars new season begins:

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Ralph Strangis has one of the most recognizable voices in North Texas. But the Stars play-by-play man will soon swap the broadcast booth for the stage. Strangis is starring in Theatre Coppell’s Murder at the Howard Johnson’s, which opens on Friday. He lives in Coppell, where the theater company performs in a black box theater that used to be a fire station.

The show is a farce in which a man, his wife and her dentist lover each conspire with one another to kill the other characters.

Strangis plays the dentist and Gary Walters plays the husband. In one scene, the husband dresses down the dentist for buying cheap rope for a hanging.

WALTERS: You bought rope on sale?

STRANGIS: It’s a second – there’s a flaw in it.

WALTERS: What kind of flaw?

STRANGIS: How do I know? It was such a good deal, I didn’t ask any questions.

WALTERS: A flaw? She’ll be here any minute, and I’ve got to look for a flaw? Where’s the flaw? I can’t find the flaw!

STRANGIS: You know what it’s costing us to hang Arlene? Between the room, the wood, the nails and the rope, it’s over $100.

WALTERS: Believe me, it’s a bargain.

The 50-year-old Strangis developed a passion for theater in high school. But he didn’t act on it until 2005, when a labor dispute ultimately canceled the National Hockey League season. No Stars hockey meant Strangis had a lot of time on his hands.

STRANGIS: “It’s very different. I’m on television 100 nights a year. This is very different. And to come out in front of 150 people here, my adrenaline really gets rushing like it doesn’t doing my day job. So I guess I was just looking to have a little fun and stretch myself and do something different.”

Murder at the Howard Johnson’s is Strangis’ fifth show with Theatre Coppell – his first was the French farce Don’t Dress for Dinner. And in that time, he’s grown.

Pete Wilson is directing Murder at the Howard Johnson’s. He admits Strangis was initially a bit of stunt casting and a curiosity for audiences.

WILSON: “But then as he started doing these shows, he started becoming an actor. … In the last two shows at least, he has become not only an equal lead with everybody else, but he’s quite a comedian. And in the last show he was in, he had to do some serious dramatic acting. And he’s gotten very good at it – he can certainly hold his own.”

Ralph Strangis (left), Laurie McDonald and Gary Walters star in Murder at the Howard Johnson's.

Strangis still works hard to develop this new skill. But his background in broadcasting helped.

STRANGIS: “My hockey job does give me certain skills here I think. It gives me an alertness and an awareness to watch out for the minefields and know where they might be and be ready in case something happens. … And then I think the other way is, I think this is just a great life lesson about being in the moment and really focusing on what you’re doing now.”

Strangis is already thinking beyond this show. He’d love to do a David Mamet play like Glengarry Glen Ross or Speed the Plow. And he hasn’t ruled out the idea of roping in Daryl “Razor” Reaugh for a show. Strangis and Reaugh have teamed up on Stars broadcasts since 1996.

Who knows – maybe someone will adapt Slapshot for the stage.